My soul magnifies the Lord

By Diogenes (articles) | Nov 22, 2003

In this month's U.S. Catholic, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., performs a makeover on "Miriam of Nazareth" and presents her as a 1970s In-Yo-Face feminist. Here's Johnson on the Magnificat:

No passivity here, but solidarity with divine outrage over the degradation of life and with the divine promise to repair the world. In the process she bursts out of the boundaries of male-defined femininity while still every inch a woman. Singing of her joy in God and God's victory over oppression, she becomes not a subjugated but a prophetic woman. Catholic women wrestle with the significance of this canticle for their own subordinate position in current church structures. ...

Theologian Susan Ross' critique spells out the implications. In many ways in the church, the mighty still occupy their thrones; the lowly still await their exaltation. "Women's very real lack of power in the church today stands as an indictment of the power structures as they exist.... The scandal of women's exclusion from power cannot be overlooked. Therefore any discussion of the empowerment of women must be juxtaposed with our lack of political and symbolic power and the failure of the leadership of the church to rectify this scandal."

Leni Riefenstahl fans will recognize the Kraft durch Freude theology in play. Power is to be savored because it's ... power. Coincidentally, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput also reflected on the Blessed Virgin recently. The contrast with Sr. Johnson's exegesis is instructive (link via Catholic Light):

The reason the secular world seeks to reinvent or reinterpret Mary is because she's dangerous. She's the model of mature human character -- a human being who co-creates a new world not through power, but through unselfish love, faith in God, and the rejection of power.

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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